top of page

I Tried That ... It Didn't Work.

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

One of my first jobs was selling Cutco Kitchen Knives. I thought that cutting the rope, leather, and penny were so cool, and I liked the quality of the product. Over the years, I eventually reached $3 million in career sales. That may seem like a lot, but it is actually pretty small in comparison to many Cutco greats.

When it occasionally comes up with someone I meet that I sold Cutco, the person will sometimes say, “I sold Cutco too, but I only lasted two weeks”, or, “I tried that, but It didn’t work.” I like to respond with, yeah, I tried it too, I only sold $3 million worth of the stuff. People always seem stunned, I say it that way for effect when in fact, it isn’t that much. I know people who have made a wonderful career from selling Cutco, and some of them make more money than many doctors with less hassle. Some have sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Cutco products.

I think our biggest failures come when we give up too soon. We sometimes don’t give things enough time to mature and succeed. Sometimes we quit right before we might have found success. I can promise you this, most of my successes have happened only after I have been tried and tested to the seeming limit of my sanity, strength, and patience.

I tried selling Cutco

Napoleon Hill tells one of my favorite stories called 3 Feet From Gold quoted here:

An uncle of R. U. Darby was caught by the gold fever in the gold-rush days, and went west to DIG AND GROW RICH. He had never heard that more gold has been mined from the brains of men than has ever been taken from the earth. He staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel. The going was hard, but his lust for gold was definite.

After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, told his relatives and a few neighbors of the “strike.” They got together money for the needed machinery, had it shipped. The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.

The first car of ore was mined, and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts. Then would come the big killing in profits.

Down went the drills! Up went the hopes of Darby and Uncle! Then something happened! The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there! They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again— all to no avail.

Finally, they decided to QUIT.

They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. Some “junk” men are dumb, but not this one! He called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the project had failed, because the owners were not familiar with “fault lines.” His calculations showed that the vein would be found just three feet from where the Darbys had stopped drilling! That is exactly where it was found!

The “Junk” man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine, because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up.

I always think of this story when my brain tells me that I have tried hard enough, and I want to quit. It also comes to mind when someone I know who is capable, decides to pull the plug on a dream. As a fellow dreamer, I know that some things don’t work out, but how many of those things didn’t work because we just didn’t fight through the challenges for long enough?

In the case of Uncle Darby, he did learn from his mistakes. He went on to become one of the top earning life insurance sales people of his time. He paid back all of his family and reached his dreams, so the lesson wasn’t lost on him.

This also applies when you try new things in your business. Stopping a new product, a new approach to selling, or even stopping marketing or advertising too early can be detrimental to your success.

I had a client who recently fired me. She didn’t trust that I was doing what I said I was doing, and she wasn’t as savvy as some are regarding digital advertising and how it works. I didn’t do a good enough job helping her see what the work we did was accomplishing, or how it was progressing. I told her it would take 30-60 days to get the Google Ad campaign to produce results. She lost patience after one month. Everyone has different approaches and attitudes and levels of understanding, but I’ll be honest, I took this one personally because I really wanted to help this person succeed. It hurt. It also made me reflect on what I could have done better and what best practices are.

I have been editing my book lately, and it’s been interesting seeing how often I say that any advertising campaign or marketing plan needs to be a long-term affair. It needs to be something you repeat over and over. Clearly, I believe my own advice because I say those words over and over in the book. It is true though. I think it is essential that you find marketing professionals who you trust to do a good job with your marketing. Once you make that decision though, make sure to give the plan time to mature and find success.

The same goes for your ideas in general. If you have a successful business, you know you didn’t succeed overnight, and that it took time to master growing and running a successful business. If you are a new, struggling business owner, you are likely wondering what is wrong with you, why you aren’t succeeding at a greater rate than you are. It might just be a matter of time. You need to continue learning and growing, but over time you will get where you are going.

I am not saying that everything you try is the right answer because it isn’t. I think mistakes are a valuable tool that will help you reach true success. One of my favorite sayings is, “You can’t get better, until you start somewhere.”

My daughter recently received a bad review at her job. She was upset because she felt she did a good job, and I believe she actually does. She is young though, and sometimes, when we are learning to work and perform, we don’t realize where we might be falling short.

At that moment, as she was dealing with the pain of feeling like a failure and feeling like she had disappointed her bosses, I asked her to ask herself this question: “Is there any truth to their feedback?” I told her if there is truth to the feedback then learn what you need to learn from the feedback and do better, even if the feedback wasn’t completely true or you feel they over exaggerated your shortcomings. If there is any truth to the feedback, then you should learn from it.

Even when you deal with partial truths, you can still learn from your errors and perform better going forward. She still felt she was being mistreated. I told her if she analyzes her own performance and sees nothing wrong, she has to consider if she wants to continue working there. If the leadership is unhappy with her and she doesn’t change, she will likely lose her job. If she believes they are so inept and they can’t see her performance is actually exemplary, then she should consider leaving on her own accord. She opted to stay to try and find a way to meet their demands. So far so good.

I had a leader teach me this principle years ago, and it is powerful. He taught me that when a leader has a problem employee and they do nothing about it, this will cause other problems in their organization. The other employees will assume one of two things. Either the leader is too clueless to realize the employee is a problem, or they know it but are too weak to do anything about it. Either way, the leader loses their influence with everyone because they don’t act on the clear problem in front of them.

If you are dealing with failure, don’t run from it. Don’t blame anyone else around you, or the economy. Find the lessons you need to learn, and learn them. When we say, “I tried that, it didn’t work!” We are dismissing the valuable opportunity we have to learn and get better. Likewise if we are stuck in trying to analyze or plan the perfect business or opportunity, we are missing out. Start. Make Mistakes. Learn. This is one of the only ways to get where you want to go.

forget the mistake, remember the lesson


Q: Why is it important to not give up too soon on a marketing or advertising campaign?

  • It takes time for most marketing campaigns to see results. It can take 6-12 months to see a significant return on investment (ROI). This is not just the advertising salesman in me trying to get you to spend more money. I assume I am like most marketers, I want you to spend money for much longer, which means you will need to see an increase in business and a positive ROI, or you will stop advertising. I want the long term business, so please plan on going for at least 6 months.

  • If you give up too soon, you'll never know if your campaign would have been successful. You might have been 3 feet from gold.

  • Even if your campaign isn't as successful as you'd hoped, you can still learn from it and improve your future campaigns. You will also benefit from the branding your campaign generated by being out in the market.

Q: What are tips for avoiding giving up too soon on a marketing or advertising campaign?

  • Set realistic expectations. Don't expect to see overnight results.

  • Track your results carefully. This helps you see if your campaign is on track, or if you need to make adjustments. Analyze and Adjust is one of the 5 Steps to a Strategic Marketing Plan. Optimization is important, too.

  • Be willing to learn from your mistakes. If your campaign isn't as successful as you'd hoped, don't give up. Learn from your mistakes and improve your future campaigns.

Q: What are the leadership qualities that are important in your business?

  • Resilience: The ability to bounce back from setbacks. All successful people know how valuable their resilience has been.

  • Determination: The ability to stay focused on your goals, even when things get tough.

  • Optimism: The belief that you can succeed, even in the face of challenges.

  • Patience: The ability to wait for results, even when it takes time.

  • Humility: The willingness to learn from your mistakes, and adjust your approach. Even when, or maybe I should say, especially when we think we did nothing wrong. Did you though?

Q: What are some examples of people who have achieved success despite giving up early?

  • Walt Disney: Disney was fired from his job at a newspaper because he was told he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."

  • Stephen King: King's first book, "Carrie," was rejected by 30 publishers before it was finally published.

  • J.K. Rowling: Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers before it was finally published.

  • Thomas Edison: Edison failed over 1,000 times before he invented a light bulb that was viable. He famously said, I didn’t fail 1,000 times, I just found 1,000 ways that didn’t work.

  • Michael Jordan: Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

Good luck out there, and if you are going to try something, give it everything you have and then keep going. Once you are down and out, stand up and go again. If you truly can’t go any further, learn the lessons you need for your next adventure.

I have a friend Lance Brown, a speaker and educator, who taught me about this great quote from one of the founders of the Franklin Covey company, Hyrum W. Smith. “Character: The ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has passed.”

9 views0 comments


bottom of page